FERC Chief of Staff Anthony Pugliese resigned his position, effective March 15, with no information on his next role other than a post on Twitter that he is taking a vacation before his next step.
“Excited for my next challenge & opportunity – continuing the American model of energy for the world,” Pugliese said in a tweet posted the afternoon of March 20. He thanked Chairman Neil Chatterjee and former Chairman Kevin McIntyre for their confidence and friendship and said he is grateful for the opportunity to serve President Donald Trump and FERC staff while he has been at the Commission.
At the March 21 FERC meeting and in a media briefing afterwards, Chatterjee thanked Pugliese for his service and said Pugliese was not asked to leave. “We wish him all the best in his future endeavors,” Chatterjee said in a statement.
He explained that Pugliese, who serves at the pleasure of the chairman and joined FERC in August of 2017, informed others of his resignation on March 15. Chatterjee was traveling that day and intended to make the announcement at the meeting, but the information became known ahead of the meeting and FERC made a brief announcement March 20.
“Anthony’s a personal friend of mine,” Chatterjee said, disagreeing with the notion that there was animosity between he and Pugliese. “He was not asked to leave,” Chatterjee said, providing no additional information.
Chatterjee said he has nothing to announce in terms of a new chief of staff or the search for candidates to replace Pugliese.
Likewise, Chatterjee shed very little light on the nomination process for the commissioner vacancy at FERC from the January 2 death of McIntyre. “I have not spoken to the White House,” he said in response to questions.
He also said he had no role in the process of the White House not selecting David Hill, former general counsel at NRG Energy who also served as general counsel at the Department of Energy, for the nomination. Earlier this month, several sources said officials in the White House favored a nomination for Hill, but they also said others in the Trump administration did not want to nominate Hill and are pushing for other candidates to be considered.
A POLITICO report March 19 said the White House scrapped Hill after DOE Secretary Rick Perry and other senior DOE officials opposed him for publicly speaking against the Trump administration effort to support coal and nuclear generation facilities in organized wholesale power markets. Coal companies who are major donors to the Republican party also opposed a FERC nomination for Hill, according to that report.
Hill acknowledged to POLITICO that the White House informed him that his nomination process had been terminated.
Chatterjee said it has been “full speed ahead” at FERC, with a full agenda of items to work on while the commissioner vacancy remains. He said, as he has in the past, that FERC works best when it has a full complement of five commissioners, and he would like to have the vacancy filled.
But not having the fifth commissioner is not impeding the work FERC is tackling, as evidenced by items addressed at the meeting and in the past few months.
The current vacancy is for a Republican commissioner to fill the seat of McIntyre. Another vacancy is in the offing, as Commissioner Cheryl LaFleur, a Democrat, said she would not seek a third term at FERC. Her term expires at the end of June, though she can stay at the Commission until the end of the current term of Congress or a replacement is confirmed by the Senate.
By Tom Tiernan TTiernan@fosterreport.com